Robin Fraser laughed Saturday night when we asked if he'd like to play every game on the road.
“That's a popular question,” Chivas USA's head coach said after Saturday night's 2-1 victory at Portland gave the club, which is 0-3 at home, two wins in two road games.
The Goats pulled off improbable wins in two of the most difficult places to play in MLS. Real Salt Lake has a terrific team (as good as any in the league), a loud and loyal fan base, and the 4,450-foot elevation takes a toll on visitors. They had lost just three games in two years at Rio Tinto Stadium before Chivas' 1-0 victory two weeks ago.
Portland has the most intimidating atmosphere in American soccer.
“For whatever reason, we seem to focus and engage into the game a little more on the road than at home,” said Alejandro Moreno, who scored the first goal Saturday. “When you come to a place like Salt Lake or Portland, the environment forces you to be engaged for 90 minutes, and your mind is not allowed to wander. At home at times, we're not able to gather the support that is important for us.
“We encourage fans to come out and give their best effort so we can put our best effort forth as well. We appreciate our fans, and we encourage those on the fence to come out and support us as well.”
Chivas has drawn just 35,559 fans through three games -- fewer than attend a Seattle Sounders game-- for an average of 11,853, and there are far fewer in the stadium than is announced. The crowd for the New England game was a league-low 7,723, although it bears mentioning that it was played on a very cold evening on a very stormy weekend.
The Goats averaged 14,830 last year, 14th among 18 clubs, and this season have cordoned off the upper deck on the eastern stands and nearly the entire seating area behind the north goal to drop capacity from 27,000 to 18,800, the size of the desired stadium the club hopes to build somewhere in Southern California within the next couple of years.
Fraser's take on why Chivas is better on the road: “I really think we're a relatively young group and still trying to find consistency and consistent confidence. As a result, I think the performances have been not the same day in and day out as we'd like them to be. This performance is one we can really build on. This performance builds real belief and real confidence.”
UNHAPPY TIMBERS: Portland coach John Spencer called the Timbers performance against Chivas USA “as poor as we've played at Jeld-Wen since I've been here.” The Scotsman's side went ahead during a dominant first-half performance, then were soundly outplayed after halftime, with Smith's insertion sparking an attacking renaissance in the Goats.
“We played like an expansion team tonight,” Spencer, whose team debuted in MLS last year, told media after the game. “We played nervous in front of a big crowd, with not enough guys stepping up and taking responsibility. … [Chivas'] energy level from the start of the game to the end of the game was better than ours. …
“You’ve got to step up and be a man. A few guys need to look at themselves tonight and ask themselves, ‘Am I doing enough on and off the field?' ”